The Premier League title race has, in recent years, become a two-horse race. Jason Pettigrove explains why the 2021/22 season could be the best we’ve seen for almost five years.
Not too long to wait now until the fun begins again.
The 2021/22 Premier League season promises to be as action-packed as always with the title race looking set to be one of the closest for years.
Though Covid has been a great leveller in terms of the knock-on economic effects for some clubs, realistically, there are still only four clubs that find themselves in with a chance of the top prize in the upcoming campaign.
Indeed, the gap between both Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Chelsea and the rest is widening by the season, and not just from a financial standpoint either.
The purchases made, the general transfer business conducted and the direction the top clubs want to go in appears much more synergistic and collaborative when compared to the 16 clubs who aren’t likely to make a dent in the title race.
Today was a good day.
🔷 #ManCity | https://t.co/axa0klD5re pic.twitter.com/SlsS4PDQI1
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 23, 2021
It’s perhaps no surprise that Pep Guardiola’s Man City side remain the odds-on favourites at 4/6 to retain a title that they won so comprehensively last season.
In Ruben Dias, they had the country’s best defender and top player – per his Premier League Player of the Year gong. Phil Foden’s Best Youngster award was also well deserved, along with Kevin De Bruyne picking up the PFA Player of the Year award to make it a clean sweep.
Guardiola’s artistry, in terms of how he sees the game, is instructive and educational, let alone having the nous and man-management skills to ensure that his expensively assembled bunch are able to execute his, often ground-breaking, ideas.
If Harry Kane is added to the mix, even for a Premier League record fee, it absolutely keeps City in the box seat.
The only blot on Pep’s copybook last season was not being able to see his side take their chance to lift the Champions League against Chelsea in Porto.
🔵 N'Golo Kanté masterclass in 2021 Champions League final 👏@nglkante | @ChelseaFC | #UCL pic.twitter.com/zGhCc7uToG
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) July 16, 2021
Indeed, Thomas Tuchel’s Blues probably represent the biggest threat to Pep’s swashbucklers in 2021/22, and their odds of 5/1 (the same as Liverpool at the time of writing) are a decent shout.
The German has ensured that the West Londoners have the defensive solidity they were lacking under Frank Lampard, whilst still retaining some gung-ho attacking spirit when required.
One only needs to look at Tuchel’s record at the Bridge from when he took over to understand that any team that manages to beat them will have to bring their A game to do so.
They are a formidable unit, and if they can add Declan Rice to their midfield, that could tip the balance in their favour.
For Liverpool, the forthcoming campaign will initially be about just getting back on the horse they rode in 2019/20.
Not an awful lot has changed in terms of personnel for Jurgen Klopp, although the loss of Gini Wijnaldum to PSG could have a marked effect.
Ibrahima Konaté’s signing was necessary, given the incredible problems that the Reds had in central defence once Virgil van Dijk was ruled out for the season.
The Dutchman is back to full fitness now and having a decent partner alongside is sure to be the difference maker.
Happiness!! First week back with the boys 😄 pic.twitter.com/hiMCa1fqgU
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) July 18, 2021
Liverpool were far too easy to pass through for long periods last season too, so shutting down the passing lanes in front of their defence will be Klopp’s priority.
Any perceived loss of confidence from a terrible run of form and results can quickly be reversed with a handful of commanding performances from the get-go.
If Messrs. Salah, Firmino and Mane have their shooting boots on again too, Liverpool will go close.
That leaves Manchester United as the 8/1 outsiders of the quartet that are most likely to have a say in where the title ends up.
Though silverware has eluded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, there’s little doubt that the Red Devils continue to improve under his tenure.
The expected additions of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane will sharpen their attack and tighten up their defence, but the injury to Marcus Rashford and continued speculation surrounding Paul Pogba’s future could derail them at the start of the season.
Strength in depth is as good as it’s been for some while, albeit they’re still trailing in the slipstream of their noisy neighbours in that regard.